Saturday
Apr012017

A Lesson on Prose Poetry with "Aftershock" and "The End of the Road"


 

Objectives

In this lesson students will:

  • Classify two prose poems as poetry or prose and defend their categorization
  • Identify ways of recognizing poems other than lineation
  • Write a prose poem

 

Background

The prose poem has been around since at least the mid-nineteenth century, when French poets such as Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire made notable use of the form. Since then, the form has been popularized internationally and is a common sight in contemporary poetry. While it dispenses with line breaks and any standardized rhyme or meter, "prose poem" is not just another name for flash fiction. A good prose poem still offers the reader the intensity of language, musicality, and image we associate with poetry and tends more toward the lyrical than the narrative.  

 

Encountering the Poems

  1. Divide the class into two or four groups. One or two groups will discuss "Aftershock" and the other half will discuss "The End of the Road."
  2. Ask the students to read the pieces as if they had discovered these sheets of paper abandoned in the library stacks, or anywhere other than in a poetry classroom. Invite students to decide for themselves whether they would classify these pieces as poetry or prose and be prepared to explain why. Ask them to identify the earliest moment in the piece where they feel the distinction they've made becomes apparent.
  3. Bring the whole group back together and allow the students who discussed "Aftershock" to share their analyses.
  4. If not already addressed by the students, ask the group at large to identify where the poem puts on the guise of a narrative and where it functions more in a lyrical mode.
    1. Answers to the former might include phrases such as "On my morning commute," "At work," and "Even at lunch" and the way these phrases are meted out carefully over the course of the poem, giving it a sense of moving forward in time.
    2. Answers to the latter might include the way in which a similar gesture of girding is employed across several different images or that a majority of the sentences in the poem are meditative observations rather than descriptions of events or characters.
  5. Allow the students who discussed "The End of the Road" to share their analyses.
  6. If not already addressed by the students, ask the group at large to identify where the poem puts on the guise of a narrative and where it functions more in a lyrical mode.
    1. Answers to the former might include the development of character and setting through the details about the father's personal history, pieces of dialogue, and placement of the conversation as happening "over drinks."
    2. Answers to the latter might include the compression of language into fragmentary sentences ("The planet a thief," "The story of the gunman . . .") and the way the last two sentences of the poem resemble a rhyming couplet.

 

Writing Prompt

Spend a day writing down interesting scraps of dialogue you hear around you. When you have ten or more interesting snippets, review what you've captured and focus in on one utterance that you can imagine yourself saying. Why would you have said it? Who would you have said it to? Imagine yourself in this scenario and write a prose poem in which you are meditating on this moment—What brought you do this moment? How do you feel about it? What do you see and hear around you?—however, do not use the quote you selected in the poem. Instead, see if you can work in one or two of the other quotes you collected.

 

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